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    Present and future situation of West Nile virus in the Afro‐Palaearctic pathogeographic system

    García‐Carrasco, José‐María ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2754-9162, Souviron‐Priego, Lucrecia, Muñoz, Antonio‐Román, Olivero, Jesús, Fa, Julia E ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1572-9828 and Real, Raimundo (2024) Present and future situation of West Nile virus in the Afro‐Palaearctic pathogeographic system. Ecography. e06941. ISSN 0906-7590

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    West Nile virus (WNV) is a globally widespread arthropod-borne virus that poses a significant public health concern. Mosquitoes transmit the virus in an enzootic cycle among birds, which act as reservoirs. Climate plays a crucial role in these outbreaks as mosquitoes are highly influenced by climatic conditions, and bird migrations are also affected by weather patterns. Consequently, changes in climate can potentially impact the occurrence of WNV outbreaks. We used biogeographic modelling based on machine learning algorithms and fuzzy logic to analyse and evaluate separately the risk of WNV outbreaks in two different biogeographic regions, the Afrotropical and the Western Palaearctic region. By employing fuzzy logic tools, we constructed a comprehensive risk model that integrates the Afro-Palaearctic system as a unified operational unit for WNV spread. This innovative approach recognizes the Afro-Palaearctic region as a pathogeographic system, characterized by biannual connections facilitated by billions of migratory bird reservoirs carrying the disease. Subsequently, we forecasted the effects of different climate change scenarios on the spread of WNV in the Afro-Palaearctic system for the years 2040 and 2070. Our findings revealed an increasing epidemic and epizootic risk south of the Sahara. However, the area where an upsurge in risk was forecasted the most lies within Europe, with the anticipation of risk expansion into regions presently situated beyond the virus' distribution range, including central and northern Europe. Gaining insight into the risk within the Afro-Palaearctic system is crucial for establishing coordinated and international One Health surveillance efforts. This becomes particularly relevant in the face of ongoing climate change, which disrupts the ecological equilibrium among vectors, reservoirs, and human populations. We show that the application of biogeographical tools to assess risk of infectious disease, i.e. pathogeography, is a promising approach for understanding distribution patterns of zoonotic diseases and for anticipating their future spread.

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